Innovative foraging behaviour in birds: What characterizes an innovator?

  • Overington S
  • Cauchard L
  • Côté K
 et al. 
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Innovative foraging behaviour has been observed in many species, but little is known about how novel behaviour emerges or why individuals differ in their propensity to innovate. Here, we investigate these questions by presenting 36 wild-caught adult male Carib grackles (Quiscalus lugubris) with a novel problem-solving task. Twenty birds solved the task (" innovators") while 16 did not (" non-innovators"). We compared innovators to non-innovators and explored variation in latency to innovate to determine the characteristics of an innovative bird. Innovativeness was not predicted by any morphological trait, but innovators had higher exploration scores and lower object neophobia scores than non-innovators. Within the innovators, latency to innovate was positively correlated with learning speed. Video analysis also revealed a marked difference in the way individuals interacted with the novel apparatus: when innovators contacted the correct part of the apparatus, they continued to do so until they solved the problem. Non-innovators often contacted the correct part of the apparatus, but did not persist in doing so. The importance of obstacle movement cues was confirmed by an experiment where they were manipulated. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Carib grackle
  • Cognition
  • Exploration
  • Individual differences
  • Innovation
  • Neophobia
  • Problem-solving
  • Quiscalus lugubris

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  • Sarah E. Overington

  • Laure Cauchard

  • Kimberly Ann Côté

  • Louis Lefebvre

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